Ayala, Francisco

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AYALA, Francisco

Nationality: Spanish. Born: Granada, 16 March 1906. Education: The University of Madrid, law degree 1929, doctorate 1931. Family: Married Etelvina Silva in 1931; one daughter. Career: Professor of law, University of Madrid, 1932-35; diplomat for Spanish Republic, 1937; exiled in Argentina, 1939-50, Puerto Rico, 1950-58, New York, 1958-66, and Chicago, 1966-73; professor, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania, University of Chicago, and New York University. U.S. representative to Unesco. Lives in Madrid. Awards: National Critics' prize, 1972; National Literature prize, 1983; National Prize of Spanish Letters, 1988; Cervantes prize, 1991. Member: Elected to the Spanish Royal Academy, 1983.


Short Stories

El boxeador y un ángel. 1929.

Cazador en el alba (novella). 1930; as Cazador en el alba y otras imaginaciones, 1971.

El hechizado (novella). 1944; as "The Bewitched" in Ursurpers, 1987.

La cabeza del cordero. 1949; as The Lamb's Head, 1971.

Los usurpadores. 1949; as Usurpers, 1987.

Historia de macacos. 1955.

El as de Bastos. 1963.

De raptos, violaciones y otras inconveniencias, 1966.

Cuentos. 1966; as El inquisidor y otras narraciones españolas, 1970.


Tragicomedia de un hombre sin espíritu. 1925.

Historia de un amanecer. 1926.

Muertes de perro. 1958; as Death as a Way of Life, 1964.

El fondo del vaso. 1962.

El rapto. 1965.

Mis páginas mejores. 1965.

Obras narrativas completas, edited by Andrés Amorós. 1969.

El jardín de las delicias. 1971.

El rapto; Fragancia de jazmines; Diálogo entre el amor y un viejo, edited by Estelle Irizarry. 1974.

El jardín de las delicias; El tiempo y yo. 1978.

El jardín de las malicias. 1988.


Indagación del cinema. 1929.

El derecho social en la constitución de la República española. 1932.

El pensamiento vivo de Saavedra Fajardo. 1941.

El problema del liberalismo. 1941.

Historia de la libertad. 1942.

Oppenheimer. 1942.

Razón del mundo (La preocupación de España). 1944.

Histrionismo y representación. 1944.

Los políticos. 1944.

Una doble experiencia política: España e Italia. 1944.

Jovellanos. 1945.

Ensayo sobre la libertad. 1945.

Tratado de sociología. 1947.

La invención del "Quijote." 1950.

Ensayos de sociología política. 1952.

Introducción a las ciencias sociales. 1952.

Derechos de la persona individual para una sociedad de masas. 1953.

El escritor en la sociedad de masas; Breve teoría de la traducción.1956; as Problemas de la traducción, 1965.

La integración social en América. 1958.

La crisis actual de la enseñanza. 1958.

Tecnología y libertad. 1959.

Experiencia e invención. 1960.

Realidad y ensueño. 1963.

La evasión de los intelectuales, with H.A. Murena. 1963.

De este mundo y el otro. 1963.

España, a la fecha. 1965; enlarged edition, 1977.

El cine: arte y espectáculo. 1966.

España y la cultura germánica; España a la fecha. 1968.

Reflexiones sobre la estructura narrativa. 1970.

El "Lazarillo": Nuevo examen de algunos aspectos. 1971.

Confrontaciones. 1972.

Hoy ya es ayer (includes Libertad y liberalismo; Razón del mundo;

La crisis de la enseñanza). 1972.

Los ensayos: teoría y crítica literaria. 1972.

La novela: Galdós y Unamuno. 1974.

Cervantes y Quevesdo. 1974.

El escritor y su imagen: Ortega y Gasset, Azorín, Valle-Inclán, Machado. 1975.

El escritor y el cine. 1975.

Galdós en su tiempo. 1978.

España 1975-1980: conflictos y logros de la democracia. 1982.

De triunfos y penas. 1982.

Conversaciones con Francisco Ayala. 1982.

Recuerdos y olvidos. I: Del paraíso al destierro; II: El exilio(memoirs). 2 vols., 1982.

Palabras y letras. 1983.

La estructura narrativa, y otras experiencias literarias. 1984.

La retórica del periodismo y otras retóricas. 1985.

La imagen de España: continuidad y cambio en la sociedad española. 1986.

Mi cuarto a espadas. 1988.

Las plumas del fénix: estudios de literatura española. 1989.

El escritor en su siglo. 1990.

Editor, Diccionario Atlántico. 1977.


Critical Studies:

Ayala, 1977, and "The Ubiquitous Trickster Archetype in the Narrative of Ayala," in Hispania 70(2), 1987, both by Estelle Irizarry; Narrative Perspective in the Post-Civil War Novels of Ayala: "Muertes de perro" and "El fondo del vasap" by Maryellen Bieder, 1979; "Historicity and Historiography in Ayala's Los usurpadores " by Nelson Orringer, in Letras Peninsulares 3 (1), 1990.

* * *

Francisco Ayala, Spanish author, sociologist, political scientist, and literary critic, began his literary career in his teens. Readers of Cervantes may recognize echoes of his novella "The Glass Licentiate" and monomania in the Quixote; Cervantes's enduring influence pervades Ayala's works, mosaics of intertextual allusions to famous books of Spanish literature.

Innovations of Spanish vanguardist movements (1925-35)—ultraism, dadaism, cubism, and surrealism—pervade El boxeador y un ángel (The Boxer and an Angel), five pieces showing influences of Freudian and Jungian psychology, cosmopolitanism, humor, and a preference for metaphor over realistic description. Vanguard word play, sensorial imagery, wit, and the cult of "pure" fiction essentially ended with the civil war (1936-39). "The Boxer and an Angel" evinces fascination with technology and the cinema (newly introduced to Spain), on which Ayala wrote several essays. A boxer is helped by an angel when he is about to lose; the pseudo-epic treatment demythifies the idealization of modern sports heroes. "Hora muerta" (Dead Hour) and "Polar, Estrella" (Polar, Star) employ cinematic changes of scene and experiment with other possibilities offered by the cinema (e.g., slow motion, running the film backwards, and recurring visual motifs).

The novelette Cazador en el alba (Hunter at Dawn), Ayala's most surrealistic experiment, employs free association of imagery, fusing dream, memory, delirium, and reality. A youthful military recruit falls madly in love with a dance-hall girl, Aurora ("dawn" in Spanish). Ironic demythification equates the rustic recruit with Hercules and his love with Diana (goddess of hunters); verbal brilliance prevails over sentiment and content. "Erika ante el invierno" (Erika Facing Winter), published with Cazador, was written in 1930 after two years in Germany where Ayala witnessed fascism's development. His intuition of the Nazi movement's potential for violence and genocide imbues adolescent Erika's search for a childhood friend. Her discomfort upon perceiving "racial" differences between herself and ethnic Jews, plus an impressionistic interlude in which an innocent child is slaughtered in a butcher shop, augurs future atrocities.

In 1932 Ayala became a professor of law at the University of Madrid, winning the chair of political law in 1934. During the civil war he served as secretary of the Republic's legation in Prague and later in France and Cuba, immigrating to Argentina, then moving to Puerto Rico and later the United States. He wrote treatises on sociology, philosophy, and intellectual history but no more collections of fiction until Los usurpadores (Usurpers), incorporating the masterful novelette El hechizado ("The Bewitched") and La cabeza del cordero (The Lamb's Head). These are Ayala's most significant novellas and stories. A common preoccupation with Spanish history (Medieval Renaissance in Usurpers, contemporary in The Lamb's Head) expressed in sparse, objective, realistic prose permits Ayala to subvert official Francoist versions of Spain's past and present. In Ayala's mature works stylistic considerations are subjected to thematic and philosophical ends as the writer masters the difficult art of simplicity and clarity, yet works are far from simple or transparent.

Usurpation of power, the theme unifying the ten tales of Usurpers, is less visible in the four novellas in The Lamb's Head, joined by motifs of the civil war, but the Franco regime's overthrow of the legally constituted Republic was a maximum usurpation. "San Juan de Dios" pictures the dissolute Portuguese soldier's conversion to saintly founder of a charity hospital and a mendicant order against the background of incessant violence in Granada, civil strife, and plagues. "The Invalid" portrays Enrique III of Castile (1390-1406) who trapped nobles usurping his power, but he decreed their release when suffering from fevers and delirium. "The Bell of Huesca" refers to a twelfth-century legend of King Ramiro the Monk, recalled to Aragon's throne when his firstborn brother left no heir. Abhorring power, Ramiro beheads the magnates who summoned him to rule (the title describes the form in which their heads were placed). "The Impostors" recounts Portuguese King Sebastian's suicidal foray against Morocco and subsequent fraudulent claims to the crown. "The Inquisitor" portrays a former rabbi, a Catholic convert now Bishop-Inquisitor, covering his past by overzealous persecutions, including his brother-in-law, his daughter's tutor, even his daughter. His insincere Christianity surfaces upon praying to "Father Abraham" in a moment of tribulation. "The Embrace" recalls the fourteenth-century reign of Peter the Cruel and the fratricidal civil wars against his illegitimate half-brothers (he murders one and is treacherously killed by the other in a peace-embrace).

In The Lamb's Head "The Message"—possibly meaningless scribbles on a mysterious scrap of paper left by a boardinghouse guest—provokes excitement and conflict among several small-town residents aspiring to proprietorship of the indecipherable "revelation." Other tales treat an erstwhile exile's return and symbolically portray human shortcomings underlying events causing Spain's civil conflicts. Historia de macacos (Monkey Story) contains six bitterly ironic stories portraying people's petty inhumanity (abuse, ridicule, humiliation, and debasement of others). Moral and physical outrages perpetrated against one's neighbors and attendant ethical concerns unify the six sardonic stories of El as de Bastos (The Ace of Clubs). Although Ayala terms all his works "novels," short fiction is his forté and in no sense a minor genre.

—Janet Pérez

See the essays on "The Bewitched" and "The Tagus."

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Ayala, Francisco

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